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1540: Cabeza da Vaca and the discovery of Iguazu falls in 1540

Cabeca da Vaca
Cabeca da Vaca
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Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca was a Spanish explorer who is often mistakenly credited with the discovery of Iguazu Falls. In truth, there’s no concrete evidence to suggest that Cabeza de Vaca was the first European to come upon these falls in 1541 (not 1540).

The association with Cabeza de Vaca likely arises because he was in the region exploring parts of what is now Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina during that time. However, the indigenous peoples of the area would have known about the falls long before any Europeans arrived.

To put things in perspective, Cabeza de Vaca is better known for his incredible odyssey across North America, documented in his work “La Relación” (1542). This work tells of his experiences as one of the few survivors of the failed 1527 Narváez expedition, during which he traveled from the coast of Florida through the American Southwest, potentially reaching as far as California, before eventually returning to Spanish territories.

So, while he was an extraordinary explorer with many adventures, there’s no definitive proof to credit him with the European discovery of Iguazu Falls.

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